Jan. 29, 2003
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -
1.You put together a difficult schedule last year to move Memphis into the national rankings for the entire year. With seven more nationally-ranked non-conference opponents on the 2003 schedule, talk about your scheduling philosophy and how this builds your program?
Our spring schedule will be tough again this year. The spring break road trip through Virginia will really be a big test. We're hoping that working so hard this fall has helped us get ready for the spring schedule. Our biggest difficulty in growing the program is still budget constraints that keep us from an ideal schedule, so we kind of have to take what we can whenever we can in terms of having to face so many difficult teams on the road. When I set the schedule, I expected Indiana and Cornell to be nationally-ranked (they were not ranked in the pre-season polls), but they could be by the end of the year. Overall, I think we have a good balance in our schedule. No top 10 teams this year, but enough teams that are ranked ahead of us that we think we can still beat. A good balance of conference and regional teams make this an appealing schedule.
2. You lost three key seniors to graduation last year, including Richard Magney who played some No. 1 matches for you, and Michael Chamberlain and Michael LaHaie who got you valuable points from the bottom of the line-up and in doubles. How will you juggle your line-up around to accommodate for those losses?
We did suffer a big loss at the bottom of our line-up in that those guys contributed a great deal of experience. We will not have that much experience at our 5 and 6 spots again this year, but the four guys that we have returning from last year are playing 150-200 percent better. Our rookies have a lot to learn, but they are coming in here with the right attitude. The injury to Joe (Schmulian), which dates back to last spring, was tough because he would be playing No. 1 in the spring if it were not for the injury, he was hitting the ball that well in September. I think we'll bring him back pretty conservatively in the spring. But I have a lot of confidence in the guys that are returning. The four players that are returning have all been the top players before, so I am very comfortable with our line-up.
3. Speaking of your rookies, how has their introduction to college tennis in the US gone?
They have been a bit overwhelmed by the depth of college tennis in the United States. There are only a few players in Australia at their same level, but they come here and see that there are thousands of players in the U.S. all trying to achieve the same goal of playing professionally someday. At the Milwaukee tournament, our two new Australian players both came in and realized how deep the talent pool is when Alex (Bucewicz) went on to easily beat the guys who beat them en route the consolation singles championship. They realized that hey, this is the guy who was the No. 5 player last year, so we're really going to have to work.
4. Speaking of your players' goals, your team was recognized as one of the ITA All-Academic teams this past year. Talk about how academics fits into your recruiting scheme and what is involved in being a college student-athlete?
Academics are important and that is just one of the characteristics I look for in a recruit. They need to have good character and work hard at academics. I think we have a good team philosophy. We want you to come here to get a degree, not just stay a couple of semesters and leave. It's been a big plus for our entire program to have Dr. Joe Luckey bring a whole new dimension to Athletic Academic Services, that's been a very big plus for our program.
5. Having your players get their degrees is important to you, but what does your program offer to players who have dreams of playing professional tennis after getting their degrees?
I think we have all the pieces of the puzzle to develop a player's potential. Paul (Goebel) and I both have great experience that will move a player along and our facilities are as good as anyone in the country right now. We're very fortunate to be able to use The Racquet Club of Memphis, which is one of the best indoor clubs in the country, and we also have an opportunity to use the indoor facilities out at Six-50 Club during February when the professional tennis tours are using The Racquet Club. And I think playing a tough schedule like we have helps them get ready as well.
6. Maybe somewhat following up on getting their degrees, you have opted to continue the Alumni Outing prior to the beginning of each dual season. What does that offer your team now?
Our alumni outing is an opportunity to create interest and get everyone involved and up to speed on what we're doing for the season. It's always a good social atmosphere and we have some really competitive alumni teams that do a good job of getting us ready for the upcoming season. It's also good for our new people to know who past players are and to see how successful they are in the community and that they got there by starting as tennis players at Memphis.
Of our three seniors last year, Michael LaHaie completed an internship at Morgan Keegan and is doing a second internship at Fed-Ex. Michael Chamberlain is just returning from Australia and will be starting to work on his MBA, and Richard Magney just joined the men's professional tour in January, competing on the satellite circuit.
7. As a Memphis graduate, what do you think about the changes you have seen on campus in the last couple of years (the hotel on campus, the new Fed-Ex Technology Center, the renovation of the student plaza on campus, the addition of the Mike Rose Theatre)?
I think we have always had a lot to offer recruits, but with the changes on campus, combined with the renovation of our outdoor, on-campus facilities, it all gives us a much better image of all the different things we have to offer. They are all very positive changes, both on campus and in the athletic department.
8. In a few words, describe your coaching philosophy for any potential recruits out there.
I think we work harder than anyone in the country, but we also work more efficiently. We have professional strategies for players to advance them in their games strategy-wise and we build their game around their strengths and to have no weaknesses. If a player comes here with any professional potential, he will be prepared to play on the tour, but we want him to get his degree while he's here, not just come for a couple of semesters and leave.
9. Anything else you want to add?
I am confident that this is the year that we will send a team to the NCAA Team Championships. We think if everyone stays healthy, we can achieve that this year.